Times - October 24, 2001
big finish merits more of the same
Seattle Times staff critic
2001 came to a triumphant end Monday night with a landmark concert that lifted
hearts and spirits while raising a big chunk of money to reduce world hunger.
sold-out event in a nearly two-week campaign of local concerts and club shows to
benefit United Nations-sponsored food-growing programs, the six-hour show had an
international lineup but retained a strong Northwest flavor.
R.E.M. may be from Athens, Ga., but it includes Seattle resident Peter Buck as
well as two regular sidemen from here, guitarist Scott McCaughey and keyboardist
Ken Stringfellow. Local heroes Pearl Jam were second on the bill,
with Seattle street performer Artis the Spoonman preceding them with a short
world-class lineup also included Canadian singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette,
Mexican rock band Mana, Nigerian Afro-pop star Femi Kuti and a late addition,
Pakistani religious singer Rahat Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, making it one of the
most diverse and significant events in Seattle rock history.
its mission, and the current state of the world, the concert had a serious
undertone. But R.E.M. wiped all that away when lead singer Michael Stipe bounded
onto the stage and proceeded to rock the joint with a celebratory, loose-limbed
set that uplifted and energized the crowd.
with "Losing My Religion" and defiantly closing with "It's The
End of the World (As We Know It)" — a song some radio stations stopped
playing in the wake of the terrorist attacks — combined with Patti Smith's
inspiring political anthem, "People Have the Power," the set served to
remind that rock 'n' roll can be a renewing, positive force for change, and that
its overall message is one of freedom.
Jam was in top form, too, with a set that emphasized political songs,
including a new one called "Safe Tonight" — perhaps from the
forthcoming album, "Talk In Code," due Nov. 13 — that seems to have
been inspired by recent events.
band opened with a cover of John Lennon's eloquently blunt "Give Me Some
Truth," and emphasized its own songs about embracing life and its mysteries,
such as "Betterman," "Do the Evolution," "Insignificance,"
"Nothing As It Seems" and "The Long Road." Lead singer Eddie
Vedder was joined in the latter by Khan, who added some improvised, wordless
vocals, and the two shared a long, warm embrace afterward.
Pakistani singer and his group of musicians were introduced by Vedder, who said
their music offered "a message of peace, love and hope for the world."
And they were enthusiastically received by the crowd, especially when the
droning, tabla-driven music built to frenzied, almost rock intensity.
short, seven-song set found the singer spirited and happy, wearing a 1,000-watt
smile as she and her tight band bounded through such songs as the philosophic
"You Learn," the religious-oriented "Thank You" and a hot
new rocker, "Sister Blister." The singer hopped like a bunny, twirled
and tossed her mane of long hair and made other dance moves that wowed the crowd.
the venue was little more than half-filled for Morissette and the acts that
preceded her. Only when Pearl Jam was introduced did the seats
fill, and remained so through most of R.E.M.'s set, although many drifted away
as midnight neared (after all, it was a workday for most of us mere mortals).
2001 apparently was a success in monetary terms, but the deluge of other benefit
shows after the terrorist attacks took away much of its impact — it seemed
minor in comparison. In some ways, the concert resembled those star-studded ones
we've been seeing on TV.
was visually oriented, with cameras capturing the stage action, shown on an
enormous screen behind the performers (thankfully, the too-bright, distracting
images were shut off during Pearl Jam and R.E.M.). With all those
cameras, it looks as though a video is in the offing.
Gwyneth Paltrow was like the hosts you see on similar events, reading badly
written intros from a TelePrompTer, sometimes flubbing them. But the crowd
cheered every time skinny Gwynny appeared.
those involved in Groundwork 2001 can now take a bow, because it went off
without a hitch. Experience Music Project, a major sponsor and host of some of
the events, gained prestige from its participation. Let's hope it will inspire
EMP to do more of the same.